Two million people – nearly double the previous estimate of 1.2 million – are now living with, and after, cancer according to new research from Macmillan Cancer Support.
Macmillan initiated this research after growing concern that official records of people living with cancer were not accurate and health services were only recognising the side effects of cancer, and not the long-term effects.
The research confirms that many cancer survivors are falling under the radar. As cases of cancer continue to rise and deaths fall, the number of survivors will grow significantly over the coming decade. Local health authorities must put in place the teams and services needed to meet the long term needs of those who have had cancer.
Macmillan is calling for a comprehensive package of care for each cancer survivor that reaches far beyond hospital care, providing emotional, financial and practical support for people living with cancer.
Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support says:
“The number of cancer survivors is growing every year and failure by Primary Care Trusts to put in place proper resources to care for these people is a ticking time bomb. It is about time the NHS acknowledged that cancer is no longer necessarily a death sentence and recognised its long-term impact on people’s lives. It is great news that more people are living after a cancer diagnosis but it must be recognised that care and support cannot stop when initial medical treatment ends. Survivors of cancer are often left with long-term physical and emotional problems, fractured relationships or financial difficulties. Macmillan currently provides crucial help to around half of those affected by cancer. The NHS and Government must work with us to make sure the rest are reached too.”
A 'cancer survivor' is defined in the Cancer Reform Strategy as 'someone who has completed initial treatment and has no apparent evidence of active disease, or is living with progressive disease and may be receiving treatment but is not in the terminal phase of illness, or someone who has had cancer in the past.'